Category Archives: Laura Fraser

Tell us your story about breaking up with your best friend

This week, inspired by Bonnie Friedman’s Shebook Devil Doll about complicated women’s friendships, we’re printing stories about breaking up with women friends on our Facebook page and blog. Please share yours (email us at: write@shebooks.net) –and who knows, maybe we’ll have enough for a new Shebook.
Our editorial director Laura Fraser shares her story about breaking up–and making up–with her best friend:

“The apology” by Laura Fraser

When we were 10, my best friend Kristin Spielman and I wore identical silver rings, thinking we’d be best friends forever. We walked to school together every day, and could hardly wait to see each other again when the last bell rang. We talked endlessly about which boys we liked and which girls were stuck-up, and spent long hours working on craft projects. We were closer to each other than we were to our own sisters.

I trusted Kristin so much that I not only let her cut my hair, I believed her when she told me that extremely short, crooked bangs were the height of fashion. When I was teased at school for being chubby, Kristin reassured me, “Your real friends love you the way you are.”

Then, one afternoon when we were 12, Kristin didn’t walk home with me, and she didn’t call. I suddenly realized, like a punch in the stomach, that she and another girl were off having fun together–without me. With no explanation, Kristin just stopped being my friend. I took off my silver ring and hid it in the back of my jewelry box. I had no idea what I’d done to make Kristin stop liking me, but it made me stop liking myself.

By high school, the sting of losing Kristin as a best friend had faded, and we saw each other sometimes in group gatherings. When I left Colorado for college, I don’t even think I wished her goodbye. We weren’t that close.

And so it was a surprise, five years later, to get an invitation to Kristin’s wedding reception. But I went. Her mother was so delighted to see the two of us together again, now grown up, that she cried.

We immediately warmed up to each other, talking and teasing and full of curiosity about our different lives. She soon had a family and stayed in Colorado. I was single, pursuing a writing career in San Francisco. Whenever I came home, Kristin would pick me up at the airport and our conversation would resume right where it had left off months before. No one makes me laugh as much as she does.

“Breaking up” with Kristin in sixth grade was the only thing in my life that halfway prepared me for the day when, after only a year of marriage, my husband left me. When I could finally muster the strength to call a friend, I called Kristin. She insisted I come home immediately.

It was comforting to be with her, to hear her fierce assurance when she said I didn’t deserve what had happened. At a time when the ground had given way beneath me, her friendship felt solid.

During our visit, we took a hike in the mountains and Kristin started talking about her two girls. Her oldest daughter, Emilee, was already a teenager. “She’s like we were as kids,” Kristin said. “She has one really good friend. Hana has a lot of friends and doesn’t care as much.”

Only recently, Emilee’s best friend had abruptly broken off their relationship. “Kind of like what I did to you,” Kristin said. I looked at her, amazed. I never thought that betrayal had even registered with her.

“I’m seeing what Emilee’s going through, and how awful it is for her,” Kristin went on. “I told her to look at us–that everything turns out OK in the end, that you end up being good friends with the people you deserve.”

I looked down at my hiking boots and we kept on walking.

“Did I ever apologize to you for that?” Kristin asked.

I shook my head, finding it impossible to speak.

“Well, I’m sorry,” she said.

I wiped my eyes and gave her a hug. “You’re forgiven,” I told her. “Complete absolution.”

I knew my ex-husband would never apologize to me for breaking my heart. But it was enough, at that moment, that my best friend had.

Copyright Laura Fraser. Originally published in Women’s Day.

Laura Fraser with her best friend Kristin Rankin: 

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How to Make Risotto Like “The Risotto Guru”

What’s the perfect accompaniment to Italian travel writing? A piping-hot plate of homemade risotto! Laura Fraser, author of the best-selling memoir An Italian Affair, recently came out with her first Shebook, The Risotto Guru, which details her adventures in Italy bite by bite. Here is Fraser’s delicious and authentic recipe as taught to her by a true risotto master (and taxi driver) in Vercelli. This dish is to die for, so please watch and follow along at home!

 

 

Read Laura Fraser’s mini-memoir, The Risotto Guru, only at Shebooks!

The Risotto Guru

Ten Books by Women That Will Change Your Year

Laura’s 10 Best Titles of the Year

Laura Fraser, Shebooks cofounder and editorial director, admits she’s a compulsive reader. In fact, she’s kept a list of all the books she’s read since she was 12! Meanwhile, here’s her list of her favorite print books from the past 12 months—all by women, in honor of the Shebooks launch.

 

1. My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante

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This author writes under a pseudonym—perhaps because her depictions of life in Southern Italy are so raw and honest. This novel is the first in a trio about two smart, ambitious young women from a poor Naples neighborhood and the twists their friendship undergoes as they confront jealousy, resentment, changes in circumstance, and new opportunities.

 

2. Stuck in the Middle with You: Parenthood in Three Genders, by Jennifer Finney Boylan

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Finney Boylan—whose original novella for Shebooks, I’ll Give You Something to Cry About, to be released in May—writes a moving book about her gender change with characteristic good humor: “I was a father for six years, a mother for ten, and for a while in between I was neither, or both–the parental equivalent of the schnoodle, or the cockapoo.”

3. The Panopticon, by Jenni Fagan

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This novel is about a young Scottish woman who survives a series of foster homes and abuse to land in a facility for troubled adolescents—beautifully written.

4. The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt

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A young boy survives an explosion in an art gallery that kills his mother and takes a priceless painting with him out the door. The sprawling novel follows his progress to adulthood as he lives with various memorable characters. I couldn’t put it down!

5. The Flamethrowers, by Rachel Kushner

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Set in the 1970s, this is the story of a young motorcycle racer who is (briefly) the fastest woman on earth. The book careens from the New York art world to political turmoil in Italy—a heady read concerned with art, love, politics, and class but still full of heart.

6. Bring Up the Bodies, by Hilary Mantel

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The story of Anne Boleyn never gets old (just watch “The Tudors” or any of the movies made about Henry VIII). But Mantel takes the story to an entirely new psychological depth, with vivid historic detail.

7. The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer

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This novel follows teenagers at art camp into middle age, as their connections are strained by changes in fortune, ambition, degrees of satisfaction, and the realization (or not) of their early talents.

8. The Woman Upstairs, by Claire Messud.

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The main character, Nora, is a humdrum teacher who builds little dollhouses—a direct nod to Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House—and imagines a more interesting life of glamour, travel, and intrigue. She is the opposite of the “woman upstairs,” the madwoman in the attic, but as this novel proceeds, her equilibrium and creativity are challenged, as is her sense of reality.

9. Knocking on Heaven’s Door, by Katy Butler.

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A beautifully written and meticulously researched tale of Butler’s years taking care of her elderly parents, exposing the flaws in the American medical system and our costly avoidance of death. An important read for anyone who will ever have to care for an elder.

10. The Round House, by Louise Erdrich.

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A coming-of-age story of an American Indian boy, layered with a dawning understanding of human evil, cultural conflicts on and off the reservation, and a wavering sense of justice.

 

Laura Fraser is author of the Shebook, The Risotto Guru

The Risotto Guru

Shebooks: A Love Story

Shebooks author Marion Winik sits down to interview Shebooks co-founder and editorial director Laura Fraser about her past, her passion for publishing and the impending Shebooks revolution.

 

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I probably don’t have to tell any Shebooks readers that it’s harder than ever to publish a book through traditional corporate channels. And certain categories — like collections of essays — have become virtually extinct, a situation which affects me directly. When I started out telling personal stories as a commentator on NPR in the 1990s, there was a lot of interest in the essay — publishers were looking for the next David Sedaris. These days, though venues have opened up online for individual pieces, and we continue to see themed anthologies on various aspects of parenting, eating, divorce, travel, etc., it’s very rare to find a collection of essays between covers by anyone other than, well, David Sedaris.

This situation made me an eager recipient of last fall’s call for submissions from Shebooks — a new publisher of short e-books by and for women, designed to be read in under two hours. One of the categories they were looking for was collections of essays. Hooray! My first collection, Guesswork, eight essays circling the topics of memory and identity, was part of the launch group in December 2013, which also included books by Jessica Anya Blau, Hope Edelman, Suzanne Paola, and Shebooks co-founder Laura Fraser. Bestselling author of An Italian Affair, Laura’s Shebook is a collection of essays about Italian food called The Risotto Guru. Here’s our recent e-conversation.

Let’s begin at the beginning. Can you tell me how Shebooks came to be? Last I knew, you were a memoirist on the love-and-pasta beat.

As a writer, I’d been increasingly frustrated about how there are fewer venues for long-form journalism, it’s harder than ever to publish long books, and top-shelf magazines like the New Yorker, Harper’s, and the Atlantic keep ignoring women writers (70% of their bylines are men!). I was speaking at a journalism conference with my long-time friend and editor, Peggy Northrop–we’d worked together at Vogue, Health, More, Organic Style, Real Simple, Glamour, and other places where she’s been a top editor–when there was a panel of guys discussing the opportunities for long-form journalism with the short e-book model. I turned to Peggy and whispered, “It’s the same guys.” She whispered back, “Someone should do this for women.” And the lightbulbs went on.

I couldn’t agree with you more about the difficulties in traditional publishing, particularly for collections of essays. But is the short e-book model catching on? I’ve heard of Amazon Singles — but that’s about it. How do we know readers want (or will accept) these mini-books? Are they even “books” in the standard sense?

What initially made us interested in the short e-book model was The Atavist, which publishes one short e-book per month, and developed the model for creating a platform for long-form journalism in a world where there are fewer and fewer places to publish at a satisfying 7000-10,000 word length– a deep dive into a subject.

There was a huge need for the short e-book. What happened in the publishing world is that magazines devalued themselves by charging only $9.99 a year, or something far below production costs, in order to boost circulation and sell the numbers to advertisers. Consumers got used to paying next to nothing for journalism. The Internet, of course, made that situation worse, with places like the Huffington Post that pay zero, nada to writers. So people are used to getting short content for free. Meantime, there are fewer and fewer places to publish long-from journalism–the feature wells in women’s magazines are shrinking, great magazines like Gourmet have been put out of business (because that $9.99 model was not sustainable in a recession, as advertisers fled), and then, of course, the top-shelf magazines publish 70% male writers.

However, people will still pay money for a book. So the short e-book is the way to sell long-form journalism, short fiction, novellas, and collections of essays. Plus, with more and more of us reading on mobile devices, it’s a satisfying length. We’re all so busy that it makes sense to read a short e-book sometimes, particularly on a mobile device. That doesn’t mean we’re not going to curl up in bed with a long novel, but it’s great to read short e-books when you have less time.

Also, as someone who teaches writing, I can say that many memoirs ought to be about 100,000 words shorter than they are. People have great stories from their lives, but not necessarily stories that are long enough to be published as books. So you get a lot of really padded memoirs. Why not trim them down to a fast-paced, great read?

I certainly agree with that. Often even very good memoirs are just too long! The Liars Club – too long! great, but too long! Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius – you too!

Looking at the launch group of Shebooks, I believe I see five fiction and six memoir/essay collections — no long-form journalism yet, right? What can we look forward to here?

We have a few long-form journalism pieces in the works, but it takes more time to develop these stories. We’re hoping to partner with some groups that fund investigative stories on issues that affect women, and we are actively soliciting more pieces.

For now, Shebooks are selling for $2.99 each. How will it work once the subscription model kicks in, and when will that be? This part is just as revolutionary as the short books — can you tell us how you came to this idea?

We come from the magazine world, so we know subscriptions are a good business model. Women are used to subscriptions to all kinds of things, from Weight Watchers to Bacon of the Month, and it makes a lot of sense for books–you can always have as many as you like at your fingertips, to browse when you’re getting on a plane or looking for something to read before bed. Our subscription service will be up in spring.

How will Shebooks compete with regular books for bestseller status? Or will they?

We’re a completely different publishing model. It’s kind of like how is the artisanal ice cream company that sells organic fig ice cream with walnuts or salted dark chocolate ice cream with almonds going to compete with Haagen-Dazs vanilla? There’s room for both, but some customers are going to become addicted to Shebooks because they’re so darn good. We’re all about quality, and about commissioning the best women writers out there to write original stories that you can’t get anywhere else.

We’ll create a little boutique reading environment in our reading app where you can go, close your eyes, and pick a book that you know will be a good read. We have years and years of experience in knowing what women like to read, understanding quality writing, and we’re bringing that to readers who crave it and don’t have the time to go through everything on Oyster or Amazon or ScribD to find it. We’re also providing short reads that fit women’s busy lifestyles. If you’re boarding a plane and want something to read from Chicago to Cleveland, just turn on your device and you’ll have plenty of great reads to choose from, and you really can’t go wrong.

Thanks, Laura. It will be fascinating to watch all this unfold — and how cool to be part of the avant garde.

This interview originally appeared on TheNervousBreakdown.com http://www.thenervousbreakdown.com/mwinik/2014/01/interview-with-shebooks-editor-laura-fraser/